Imagine if doctors could perform surgery without ever having to cut through your skin. Or if they could diagnose cancer by seeing tumors inside the body with a procedure that is as simple as an ultrasound. Thanks to a technique developed by engineers at Caltech, all of that may be possible in the not-so-distant future.
Nearly all motile bacteria can sense and respond to their surroundings through a process called chemotaxis, which begins with proteins known as chemoreceptors. Now researchers at Caltech have built the first model that depicts precisely how chemoreceptors and the proteins around them are structured at the sensing tip of bacteria. Because chemotaxis plays a critical role in the first steps of bacterial infection, a better understanding of the process could pave the way for the development of new, more effective antibiotics.
As part of a program to foster innovative biomedical research projects, an anonymous donor has pledged $3 million each to Caltech and City of Hope to strengthen scientific collaborations between the two leading research institutions.
There's a wealth of health information hiding in the human immune system. Accessing it, however, can be very challenging, as the many and complex roles that the immune system plays can mask the critical information that is relevant to addressing specific health issues. Now, research led by scientists from the California Institute of Technology (Caltech) has shown that a new generation of microchips developed by the team can quickly and inexpensively assess immune function.
More than 50 years ago, at a meeting of the American Physical Society hosted by Caltech, Richard Feynman gave a talk called “There’s Plenty of Room at the Bottom.” In his visionary speech, Feynman discussed the technological promise of tiny machines as small as a few atoms. This promise has grown into a full-fledged discipline we now know as nanoscience, and it is the subject of TEDxCaltech’s last session, “Nanoscience and Future Biology.”
One key to fighting diseases such as leukemia and anemia is gaining an understanding of the genes and molecules that control the function of hematopoietic—or blood—stem cells, which provide the body with a constant supply of red and white blood cells and platelets. Biologists at Caltech have taken a large step toward that end, with the discovery of a novel group of molecules that are found in high concentrations within hematopoietic stem cells and appear to regulate their production.
When does a cell decide its particular identity? According to Caltech biologists, in the case of T cells—immune system cells that help destroy invading pathogens—the answer is when the cells begin expressing a particular gene called Bcl11b.
A team of scientists from Columbia University, Arizona State University, the University of Michigan, and Caltech have programmed an autonomous molecular "robot" made out of DNA to start, move, turn, and stop while following a DNA track.
The development could ultimately lead to molecular systems that might one day be used for medical therapeutic devices and molecular-scale reconfigurable robots—robots made of many simple units that can reposition or even rebuild themselves to accomplish different tasks.
We are not alone—even in our own bodies. The human gut is home to 100 trillion bacteria, which have co-evolved along with our digestive and immune systems. Most people view bacteria as harmful pathogens causing infections and disease. But some microbes, taking a different evolutionary path, have established beneficial relationships with their hosts. Still others may be perched somewhere in between, according to research by Caltech biologists that offers new insight into the causes of inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.
Taking inspiration from a popular executive toy ("Newton's cradle"), researchers at Caltech have built a device—called a nonlinear acoustic lens—that produces highly focused, high-amplitude acoustic signals dubbed "sound bullets." The acoustic lens and its sound bullets (which can exist in fluids—like air and water—as well as in solids) have the potential to revolutionize applications from medical imaging and therapy to the nondestructive evaluation of materials and engineering systems.